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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Donald Dewar responds to Spencely
Donald Dewar
Donald Dewar has consistently argued in favour of Holyrood
First Minister Donald Dewar has responded to the report by leading architect John Spencely, on the choice of Holyrood as the site for the new Scottish Parliament building. This is his statement in full.

I welcome John Spencely's Report on the Holyrood project and the measured response from the Corporate Body. I will wish to study his findings carefully.

There will, of course, be a full debate next week but in view of the enormous interest and the continuing speculation, I want to set out some immediate comments.

The report relates almost exclusively to the more recent work on site rather than the site selection itself and the early design stage.

Indeed the "client" is defined throughout as the Corporate Body.

My direct responsibilities ended in June 1999 when the initial design work was approaching completion and construction on the ground was still at a very early stage.

The Spencely Report deals effectively with the many misunderstandings and false accusations which have been common currency in the continuing debate.

Holyrood 'right choice'

The decision to choose the Holyrood site has been heavily criticised. Great care was taken to assess the four options available and to obtain proper architectural and financial advice as an aid to selection.

The architect's report on Holyrood described the site as "eminently suitable".

All early indicative costings were the work of independent experts.

I still believe that Holyrood is and was the right choice. Spencely puts the point with force: "The present state of the project has nothing, in my opinion, to do with the location of the site".

He gives short shrift to those who insist that the Holyrood site itself is the villain of the piece.

Spencely supports the selection of contract management methods and rejects the suggestion that a fixed price contract would have been more appropriate.

Figures 'undermined'

He makes it very clear as the Corporate Body accepts, that the substantial expansion in the size of the building after June 1999 and the design changes that took place complicated the task of the team on site and undermined existing cost figures.

It is significant that the Corporate Body's report points out that the costs per square metre on the building "have remained relatively stable".

He gives no comfort to those arguing for an alternative site.

It is clear that such a change would be impractical, expensive and likely to end in a splutter of damaging litigation. A decision to abandon Holyrood would involve a delay of several years.

There is nothing in the Spencely Report to suggest that a suitable building on another site would be an easy or a cost effective alternative.

The report contains robust criticism of communications and the way in which line management operated on the job.

These matters must be taken seriously and solutions found.

New committee

The Corporate Body, in its response, proposes a Progress Committee with the one and only responsibility of bringing the building to completion on the speediest practical timescale and within the parameters set by Spencely.

It is a sensible approach which should be put in hand urgently.

I stand ready to co-operate in every way possible.

I am aware that the Comptroller of Audit is mounting a thorough examination of the project. He and his staff have the powers and the expertise to do the job.

I welcome their involvement. It is essential that we learn from the mistakes of the past.

The formation of the Progress Committee is a start but not enough in itself.

'Energetic action'

The task is to get the structures right and that means tightening and strengthening the controls and boosting the professional team to meet the difficulties outlined in the report.

Only if this is done can we achieve our objective - a building fit for a parliament.

Energetic action to put Holyrood on track is essential. Spencely proposes economies but the price put at 190m is formidable.

It remains the right option.

The Corporate Body is asking Parliament for a speedy decision. Further delay will only increase costs. The present temporary arrangements are universally acknowledged as wholly unsatisfactory and present both the public and MSPs with real difficulties.

I expect that there will be a motion for next week's debate which asks the parliament to finalise the design brief, to endorse the budget proposals set out in the Spencely Report and to set up a Progress Committee to drive the work to a successful conclusion.

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30 Mar 00 | Scotland
Report says 'Holyrood site stays'
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